Explaining changing of the guards

Mindmap © Hans Buskes

Tarot card © Yury Shakov (1937-1989), designer of the most beautiful Tarot set

Changing of the guards is considered to be a cryptic song. John Herdman writes in Voice without restraint: “The song tells in marvellously evocative language a fractured and elusive tale which yield little to a search for connecting meaning.” However the Tarot imagery makes it not all too difficult to decipher the song’s meaning. It is all about change, radical change (as illustrated with the Tarot cards death and the falling tower as well as with the lines about the resurrection of Jesus). Change in his career (“sixteen years”, “I don’t need your organisation”), relation (“the empty rooms where her memory is protected”, so her memory is all that is left), but foremost Dylan’s conversion to Christianity (“peace will come with tranquility and splendor”). Changing of the Guards is the counterpart of  Shelter from the storm.

When the album came out I immediately liked it (and still do) and I think  Changing of the Guards arguably is one of Dylan’s best songs. It is strange that Dylan only performed the song during the 1978 world tour. A possible explanation could be that it is too personal for him.

About Hans Buskes

I am a professional mindmapper, I help companies map their business, I am author of two mindmap books. My clients are law firms, municipalities, banks, consultancies and high-tech companies.
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2 Responses to Explaining changing of the guards

  1. john desmond says:

    i got to hear him do it live in Toledo, OH. I got to see him up close walk to the bus afterwards. He is not someone you would have approached. A small crowd had gathered and applauded the singers and other as they came to the bus. When Bob came everyone was totally quiet. He was carrying a big bottle of Perrier water. Strange man. didn’t look healthy. Good show. And I love the Budokan LP.

  2. Rupert DeBare says:

    Absolutely right : it’s fairly accessible from a certain perpective. I would simply note the allusions to Christ’s resurrection : “midsummer’s eve” ; “wakes him up” ; “48 hours later” ; “sun is breaking” ; “broken chains” ; “rolling rocks” – all of which points to Dylan’s own impending spiritual rebirth.

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